New Ordinances Restrict Anchoring for Cruisers

Barb Venturi, a town commissioner in Oriental, North Carolina, is jazzed. New dockage for transient cruisers is being installed on the popular sailing town’s waterfront. Best of all, it’s free, albeit limited to 48 hours.

Oriental is a happy exception on the East Coast. Many communities, particularly in Florida, are up in arms about transients anchoring in their vicinity, and this has led to confrontations between townsfolk, bureaucrats and cruisers.

Waterway Guide publisher Jack Dozier, who owns two Chesapeake Bay marinas, says, “The numerous recent notices concerning restrictions on anchorages are at once alarming [to cruisers] and at the same time offer a solution [to problem boats].” He’s referring to the establishment of mooring fields as well as proposed restrictions on anchoring in certain areas.

Ordinances restricting anchoring are being considered, modified or enacted in Annapolis, Maryland; Carolina Beach, North Carolina; and St. Augustine, Stuart/Jensen Beach, Marathon, Sarasota and St. Petersburg in Florida. The impetus for these restrictions, particularly in Florida, comes from waterfront homeowners who object to people anchoring “in their backyards,” to quote one Miami Beach resident. These homeowners seem to believe they have not just purchased the land, but also the view out to the horizon.

In Annapolis’s popular Back Creek, some marinas want to ban cruisers from anchoring entirely, which would have a negative effect on many local businesses, marine and otherwise.

In December, St. Augustine established several mooring fields in the city’s most popular anchorages and imposed time limits on anchoring. St. Petersburg’s popular Vinoy Basin is now a mooring field, off-limits for anchoring, with no other anchorages close by.

Why mooring fields? Florida state law says no municipality may enact laws concerning anchoring—unless it has a mooring field and is part of the Anchoring & Mooring Pilot Program established by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC). Any such ordinances require FWC approval. In 2014, the state will decide which laws will be enacted statewide. Until then, inconsistency reigns as pilot program sites go their own way. 

In Stuart, popular Manatee Pocket became off-limits for anchoring due to a proposed 300-foot setoff, until the outraged boating community forced Martin County to change that to 50 feet. Sarasota wants a 150-foot setoff. The Keys has proposed proof of pump-out, a mandatory USCG inspection sticker and two managed “anchoring zones.” What happens if and when laws like these are enacted statewide?

Clearly, there are no simple solutions to these problems. Cruisers cite their historic right to anchor. Homeowners cite a reasonable expectation of privacy—even though anyone purchasing a home on a public waterway should expect to see boats at anchor. 

What most annoys homeowners are derelict boats and those who live aboard them—many of them people who would otherwise be homeless. This is a social issue that needs to be addressed from that perspective. Creating mooring fields and restrictive ordinances is not a real solution. 

There are already laws dealing with derelict boats, illegal pumping-out and other issues the pilot program is supposed to resolve, but they are not being enforced. Why craft new laws—unless there is a hidden agenda to control where, how and for how long boaters can anchor? 

For more details on the new ordinances, see the author’s blog at Florida Anchoring Issues,


Most Read on Sail

Also Popular on Sail


Leave a Reply